How do I get food stamps (SNAP)? (FAQs)
Authored By: Southeast Louisiana Legal Services (New Orleans office)
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How to apply for food stamps and answers to other commonly asked questions about SNAP
I need food stamps. Where do I get them? +
"Food stamps" are dispensed by the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). You can get SNAP benefits (food stamps) by applying online or in-person. In Louisiana, the food stamp program is run by the state's Department of Children & Family Services, Office of Family Support. The Office of Family Support has offices in each parish. You can find the office nearest you by searching the Department of Social Services' website at www.dss.louisiana.gov.
How do I get food stamps? +
- It may be easiest to apply online for your SNAP benefits. You can begin the process online and later provide copies of supporting documents by mail, fax or in-person.
- If you are applying for or already getting SSI, you have the right to apply for food stamps at any Social Security office. If you are refused an application there, you should speak with a lawyer. Anyone can apply at any Office of Family Support office. Even if it is the wrong office, it should send your application to the right office. If you are refused the right to apply, speak with a lawyer. Some offices may tell you they only take the first 15, 20, or so people. If you are told this, speak with a lawyer.
- Fill in the application form with your name and address. Add the date, sign it, and leave it. That is all you have to do in the beginning. You do not have to finish the entire application at the time you apply. The quicker you turn the application form in, the more food stamps you might get. Leave the application at the office if they tell you they do not have time for you that day. If they do not let you do this, speak with a lawyer.
What happens after I file the application? +
- Interview. The Office of Family Support ("OFS") will set up an interview for you with a worker. The interview may be in-person at the OFS office or over the telephone. You do not have to appear in-person if all people living in your house are 65 or older, or disabled, and you cannot get someone to go to OFS for you. OFS must then interview you by telephone or meet with you somewhere easier for you to get to. Before you leave your interview, write down your worker's name and telephone number so you know who to call if you have a question or problem.
- Proof. You must give verification (proof) of some of your application answers. For example, you must prove the identity, income, immigration status, and some other things, of everyone in your house who is getting food stamps. The worker must give you a list in writing of what proof you need to get. By law, you have 10 days to get this proof to your worker.
- If you need help. If you cannot get the proof, ask your worker for help. By law, the worker must try to help you if you ask. When you give any proof to OFS, keep a copy if you can or have a witness to when and how you return it. The agency often loses papers. If you think you are being asked for something illegal, or the agency will not help you when you need it, talk with a lawyer.
I don't have any money to eat. How quickly can I get food stamps? +
Your food stamp application by law must be decided in 30 days, unless you do not have needed proof. But you can get food stamps quicker than that, in 7 days instead of 30, if:
- Money available to you is less than your housing costs (rent, mortgage, and utilities), or
- Your monthly income is less than $150 and other money you have is $100 or less, or
- You are a migrant worker with no job income, you have $100 or less in other money, and you do not expect more than $25 from any other income in the next 10 days.
Getting food stamps so quickly is called "expedited" food stamps. The state is supposed to ask you questions the first time you come to the food stamp office to see if you should get "expedited" food stamps. If you are not asked any questions be sure to tell the food stamp office workers if you think you should get "expedited" food stamps.
What are my rights if the food stamp office does not give me food stamps on time? What can I do? +
You may have a right to get food stamps in 7 days. You may have a right to get them in 30 days. If the food stamp office does not get you food stamps on time, you should talk with a lawyer immediately. Free legal services programs can help you with this urgent problem. You can also try talking with a supervisor at the food stamp office. If that does not help try to talk with a lawyer.